Q: I’ve been getting a lot of solicitations in the mail saying I’ve been pre-approved for certain credit cards.  If I elect to get one of these cards, will an inquiry show up on my credit report?  I don’t want to inadvertently hurt my score.

A: Yes, an inquiry will show up and, unfortunately, it will be a hard one.

“Those offers you get in the mail are technically conditional approvals,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com. “When you fill those offers out and send them back in you're technically applying for credit, which is when the card issuer will pull what's referred to as a ‘back end report.’”  

That report and score will be used to set the final terms of the account including the interest rate and the credit limit, and it will show up as a hard inquiry on your credit report.

Remember, credit card inquiries, which are generated when a lender checks your credit, comprise 10% of a person’s total score, and are broken into two categories. Hard inquiries are generally associated with any credit pull that will add to your current debts, while soft inquiries are associated with those that will not, such as opening a bank account or checking your own credit.

As such, hard inquiries are the ones that can cost you a point or two. But those with good credit shouldn’t fret too much.  As reported, each typically accounts for only five points or so. And those with bad credit probably shouldn’t be getting a new credit card to begin with.

Want to know what can affect your credit score? Email your questions to editors@mainstreet.com.

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